Bruno Mars’ ethnically ambiguous look left many people wondering about his heritage. Hawaii is one of the first places that come up when his name is mentioned, but does he have a connection to this tropical paradise?
Stick around to learn more about Bruno Mars’ roots and upbringing in Hawaii.
Bruno Mars’ Ethnicity
Bruno Mars is one of the celebrities with the most interesting family tree, and it’s difficult to sum up his ethnicity with a single word. The singer’s mother Bernadette San Pedro Bayot hails from the Philippines, but also has Spanish roots, while his father Peter Hernandez is half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish, with Ukrainian and Hungarian ancestors.
Bruno Mars was born in Honolulu as Peter Gene Hernandez and spent his formative years in Hawaii. After years of performing with his family, he decided to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in the music industry after graduating from high school.
His mixed background stood in the way of his ambitions because record label executives were desperate to put him in the box. Some even suggested he should stick to Latin music and sing in Spanish because his last name is Hernandez.
Once his career took off, Bruno Mars was accused of cultural appropriation because some people felt he’s heavily borrowing from black artists and using his racial ambiguity to get ahead.
Several artists, including Stevie Wonder and Charlie Wilson, jumped to his defense. Bruno himself explained that he’s simply celebrating the legacy of artists who inspired him because “black music means everything” in his world.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these artists who inspired me. They have brought me so much joy and created the soundtrack to my life… Watching them made me feel like I had to be as great as they were in order to even stand a chance in this music business,” Mars told Latina Magazine.
Growing Up in Hawaii
Bruno Mars said that growing up in Hawaii made him the man he is today. He fell in love with music at an early age, started performing with his family band The Love Notes, and his little Elvis impersonation became a huge hit with the locals.
He started playing several instruments in his youth, including drums, guitar, piano, and some percussion. Mars also performed with a group called the School Boys, served as the opening act for a magic show, and made appearances on the celebrity-impersonators show.
The Grammy-winning singer had a humble upbringing and dealt with many hardships after his parents’ divorce. He moved out of their family home with his brother and father, who was totally broke after his band The Love Notes dismantled.
They spent some time living at the abandoned bird zoo Paradise Park but also slept on rooftops and in the back of a car. During an appearance on 60 Minutes, Mars fondly remembered this period of his life and said it never felt like “the end of the world” because they had each other.
Changing His Name
Bruno Mars’ stage name comes with an interesting backstory, but he never embraced it in an attempt to hide his Puerto Rican heritage. He dismissed these rumors in a cover story for Latina Magazine and went into detail explaining how he came up with his famous moniker.
His father was actually the one who nicknamed him Bruno because he reminded him of the professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino. He added Mars to this nickname because it sounded “out of this world” and “larger than life”.
His stage name doesn’t have anything to do with the rejection of his Puerto Rican roots, and he called these insinuations “insulting” and “ridiculous”. Some record executives tried to pigeonhole him as a Latin artist, but Mars wanted to make music “for anybody who wants to listen to it” and not a certain target audience.